The application of technology to road safety

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Earlier this afternoon, as I drove home in the dark across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, it struck me just how many satellite navigation systems people are fitted in cars today (at least, I assume they were sat-nav devices, and that people were not just watching TV!). I don’t have sat-nav for two (three) reasons – I have a map book, I have a very good memory for remembering routes (and I was too tight to specify another £1200 options last time I ordered a car); however I do acknowledge that not everyone is a comfortable with their route planning capabilities and everyone I know with a Tom Tom raves about it.

My car tells me when I, or one of my passengers, isn’t wearing a seatbelt. It also turns on the wipers when the windscreen is wet. So, in general, I would say that applying technology to increase driver comfort and safety is a good thing.

It’s sad though, that technology hasn’t been used to detect when a driver needs to use their lights, or when there is a fault with a vehicle and it is unsafe to drive. On the same journey, the first hour of it was spent driving in fog (although visibility was still about 400 metres) – that meant that there was a mixture of people driving without lights (!) and people who thought they needed to use their rear fog lights even though I was right behind them and perfectly aware of their presence.

A few months back I had a rant about the replacement of real police by cameras in the name of road safety – my point being that a traffic policeman can exercise judgement over an issue that’s much broader than simply speeding, whereas a camera can’t. At the same time, I’ve seen a rise in unchecked vehicle defects. A few weeks back I followed a car for several miles which was belching out black noxious fumes. Today, I followed a car with only one working brake light which was directly above the rear fog light that was dazzling me. Later, a 7.5 tonne truck pulled out in front of me to overtake someone, and I saw the indicators on the side of the cab, but narrowly avoided a collision as his rear indicators didn’t work and it was all a bit too late.

Instead of all these gadgets, please can someone apply technology (or even people) to road safety – and I don’t just mean the politically correct issue of excess speed.

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